The Intellectual Domains of Sustainability Leadership in SMEs

Article


Boeske, Jane and Murray, Peter A.. 2022. "The Intellectual Domains of Sustainability Leadership in SMEs." Sustainability. 14 (4), pp. 1-19. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14041978
Article Title

The Intellectual Domains of Sustainability Leadership in SMEs

ERA Journal ID41498
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsBoeske, Jane (Author) and Murray, Peter A. (Author)
Journal TitleSustainability
Journal Citation14 (4), pp. 1-19
Article Number1978
Number of Pages19
Year2022
PublisherMDPI AG
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
ISSN2071-1050
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3390/su14041978
Web Address (URL)https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/4/1978
Abstract

The goal of this paper is to review the intertwined range of conceptualizations that have blurred developing leadership knowledge regarding environmental sustainability. An examination of the leadership literature reveals differential descriptions about sustainable, environmental, and sustainability leadership which are increasingly being used to imply what sustainability‐focused leaders do, their interactions, their relationships, and how they address sustainable challenges. While extant research supports that leadership is a critical capability to respond and adapt to constant external environmental and economic upheaval in large firms, agreement about the types of leadership practices necessary to achieve positive environmental sustainability and eco‐efficient outcomes is less clear in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). To resolve these problems, we synthesize the sustainable, environmental and sustainability leadership literature by (a) reviewing and clarifying these leadership constructs, (b) theoretically unravelling these overlapping concepts, and (c) developing an integrated framework of intellectual capital and sustainability leadership practices. From a theoretical perspective, this paper seeks to make a significant contribution to the scholarly leadership literature by offering several leadership classifications of skills and knowledge relevant to leadership knowledge domains. Given that extant research has conflated many leadership approaches, this paper builds on the theoretical knowledge of the kind of leadership skills required for sustainability leadership. From a practical perspective, we provide SME leaders with knowledge about the types of leadership practices, behaviours, and activities that will enhance sustainable productivity in their firms. The paper is designed to advance a new way of thinking about existing sustainability leadership by presenting an original contribution that alters and reorganizes potential causal maps, that are potentially more valuable. Whilst most of the leadership research involves large firms, we seek to better understand and inform sustainability leadership in SMEs.

KeywordsEco‐efficient outcomes; Environmental and sustainability leadership; Intellectual capital; Network capital; Organization capital; Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); Sustainable; Sustainable productivity
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020350709. Organisation and management theory
350716. Small business organisation and management
350702. Corporate social responsibility
350707. Leadership
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Business
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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